OBJECTIVES. In 2004, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians released a clinical practice guideline on the management of acute otitis media that included endorsement of an observation option for selected cases and recommendations of specific antibiotics. We sought to describe primary care physicians' current management of acute otitis media to compare it with the guideline's recommendations and describe trends since 2004.

DESIGN. We used a mail survey from March through June 2006 within the Slone Center Office-Based Research Network, a national practice-based pediatric research network.

RESULTS. The response rate was 299 (62.7%) of 477. The observation option was considered reasonable by 83.3%, compared with 88.0% in 2004, and was used in a median of 15% of acute otitis media cases over the previous 3 months. The most common physician-identified barriers to the use of the observation option were parental reluctance (83.5%) and the cost and difficulty of follow-up of children who do not improve (30.9%). In terms of antibiotic choices for acute otitis media, agreement with the guideline's antibiotic recommendation for 4 common clinical scenarios was as follows: high-dose amoxicillin for acute otitis media with nonsevere symptoms (57.2%), high-dose amoxicillin-clavulanate for acute otitis media with severe symptoms (12.7%), high-dose amoxicillin-clavulanate for cases that failed to respond to amoxicillin (42.8%), and intramuscular ceftriaxone for cases that failed to respond to treatment with amoxicillin-clavulanate (16.7%). Each of these proportions declined from 2004.

CONCLUSIONS. Most primary care physicians accept the concept of an observation option for acute otitis media but use it only occasionally. Antibiotics prescribed for acute otitis media differ markedly from the guideline's recommendations, and the difference has increased since 2004.

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